Cavendish: “This is for Great Britain”
Jeremy Hunt chases, Elite men's road race, Road World Championships 2011
Mark Cavendish's rainbow jersey is the culmination of three years' hard work by British Cycling to put the Manxman in a winning position, and the new world champion says that he will wear it next season on behalf of everyone who helped him to win it.
"When the course route was announced three years ago, we knew it was our best chance to bring the jersey back to Great Britain since Tom Simpson won it in 1965," said Cavendish.
"It's been a three-year project organised by [coach] Rod Ellingworth, and has been all about getting together the best guys to help me win here."
Far from only wanting to thank the seven riders who rode for him on Sunday, Cavendish said that he was indebted to all the other British ProTeam riders who had worked so hard to secure the points to allow the GB team to come to Copenhagen with an eight-man team.
"I want to thank all of them for having helped. I'm sitting here wearing it now on behalf of them," Cavendish continued. "That is, all the guys who helped secure the points to get eight starters here, plus the coaches, and especially Rod. We started this project three years ago, and we've really done everything to ensure we were in the best position.
"So it's not me who's won this. The guys rode out of their skins today, and I won on behalf of them. I'll wear this jersey next year, but there's always going to be seven guys in my heart when it comes to this jersey. It's a shame that they can't wear it as well, because I just did the last part today."
Starting the race as one of the favourites, Cavendish says he knew that Great Britain couldn't count on too much support from the other teams. Their closest ally, it turned out, was third-placed Andre Greipel's German team, who shared a lot of the work on the front of the bunch to keep the pace high and later reel in the breakaways.
"We knew that we would be limited by the amount of support we'd get," said Cavendish. "We knew Germany would ride, and we thought that the USA would ride, but they didn't, really. Maybe they didn't have faith in [their sprinter] Tyler Farrar - I don't know."
But after Germany lost some of their riders behind the crash that came with five-and-a-half laps to go, it was left up to the GB team, said Cavendish.
"No one else was really willing to help," he explained. "We were attacked every which way by the other nations, but we've got the best riders in the world riding for Great Britain. Bradley Wiggins pretty much rode the last lap at the front on his own. He did an incredible job. All I had to do was sit there."
Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas led the race around the last corner, and then it was up to Cavendish on the uphill sprint to the finish.
"A lot of people had me down as the favourite, but others said that the finish was too hard for pure sprinters," Cavendish said. "Three hundred metres uphill is not a hill - it's a sprint like any other, just 15 kilometres slower, that's all."
Realising he was boxed in on the right as the road rose, Cavendish knew he had to find a way out.
"I wanted to go with 150 metres to go, but had to go with 200 to go when a gap opened," he explained. "When I kick, I normally know if I'm going to win... I did see Gossy [Matt Goss, second] come up, but it was never going to be walk in the park against the greatest sprinters in the world."
Cavendish now hopes to honour the jersey, with 2010 world champion Thor Hushovd as his reference.
"If I can do the jersey justice half as well as Thor has this past year, I'll be happy," said Cavendish. "He's really done it proud this year. It's all about panache and showing that winning the jersey wasn't just a lucky ride, and that you worked for it."
But first it's time to celebrate.
"I love Copenhagen. This is the best city in the world, in my opinion, so yeah, I'm going to be out celebrating with the guys tonight."
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Project Rainbow Jersey
Road World Championships 2011: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
Mark Cavendish: Rider Profile